About this online course


Get introduced to the essentials of industrial fermentation processes, which convert renewable feedstocks into biomaterials, chemicals, nutrition products and biofuels with the help of microorganisms.

Industrial fermentation is the central operation in a broad, sustainable value chain, also involving the upstream generation and supply of renewable feedstocks, and downstream purification of the products formed. In this course you will understand how the essential process inputs and outputs are connected via biological and physical mechanisms, and form the basis of process design, scrutiny, optimization and scaling between factory and lab. 

This course provides the insights and tools for designing industrial fermentation processes with sustainability advantages, where choices of product and feedstock determine the specific process requirements. Six experienced course leaders will reveal the essentials of industrial fermentation and how to apply these for conceptual design and quantification, resulting in basic mathematical frames and models. Throughout the course, you will apply the theory to a case study where you will produce the building block 1,3-propane diol (PDO) from sugar. Also, you will experience what are the main pitfalls (‘banana skins’) and how to stay away from them.  

The course includes guest lectures from industry and universities. 

This course is geared towards Biologists, Biotechnologists and Chemical and Environmental Engineers, but will also be of value to others with a different science and engineering background or interest, working in the field of research, development and manufacturing, who wish to deepen their knowledge of industrially relevant fermentation technology and operations.

What You'll Learn

After this course all learners will be in a position to:

  • Describe the essence of industrial fermentation
  • Utilize insights gained to design an industrial scale quantitative fermentation plant
  • Explain the causes and remedies for scale-up issues, from lab to factory
  • Apply the insights to suggest improvements for industrial fermentation processes and design of down-scaled lab-scale simulators


Course Syllabus

Getting started and introduction is included in Week 1

Unit 1. Industrial Fermentation

  • Industrial Fermentation: the Great Adventure?
  • Industrial Fermentation Essentials (preliminary title)
  • Benefits for society and sustainability - evaluating the effects of biobased production (preliminary title)
  • Process to produce bio-PDO (1,3-Propanediol)
  • Renewable Feedstocks for Fermentation (preliminary title)

Unit 2. Balances and Microbial Rates

  • Microorganisms and their function in nature
  • Functional understanding of nutrient requirements for microbial growth
  • Learning about the process: broth balances
  • Learning about the process: gas-phase balances
  • Learning about the microorganism: q-rates and chemostat
  • Learning about the process and organism: batch
  • Extra guest lecture: balances
  • Extra: banana skins
  • PDO case
  • Best practice: mixed cultures

Unit 3. The Black Box Model and Process Reaction

  • The process reaction
  • Basics of the black box model
  • Energy consuming and energy producing products
  • A PDO black box model: experiments for parameter identification
  • Black box models: The PDO process reaction as function of μ
  • PDO continuous process design: calculation of inputs and outputs using the process reaction
  • Aerobic PDO process: improving sustainability
  • Introduction to Metabolic Flux Analysis
  • PDO case
  • Best practice: succinic acid

Unit 4. Fermentation Design

  • Introduction to fermentation technology
  • The large-scale fermenter
  • Fermenter operation
  • Gas transport
  • Heat transport
  • Mixing
  • Basic approach to design and then optimize a PDO fermentation process
  • PDO case
  • Best practice: artemisinin

Unit 5. Scale-down and Scale-up

  • Introduction to scale-effects
  • Similarity and scaling approaches
  • Scaling Macro- Micro-balances
  • Dimensional scaling
  • Computational fluid dynamics for scaling
  • Industrial examples

Unit 6. Wrap-up

  • Closing lecture: Industrial Fermentation: where we are now, and where we will go?
  • Final assessment

Other Instructors

  • Prof. dr. Patricia Osseweijer
  • Dr. ir. Ludovic Jourdin
  • Dr. ir. John Posada Duque
  • Prof. dr. Adrie Straathof


This is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that runs on edX.


  • High school understanding of Mathematics
  • First year undergraduate level of (bio)chemistry and biology

  • Starts: Anytime (Self-Paced)
  • Free | Earn certificate for $149
  • Group fee: contact us
  • Length: Self-Paced
  • Effort: 6 - 8 hours per week / 6 weeks

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